I was making a nice early dinner/ late lunch for Mother’s day. I saw something similar to this as a tart, and I thought – what a great alternative to the beef that was planned. It can double as a vegetarian option, but everyone will love it. It is also a great dish to cut up and freeze in individual, bite sized for an app or family portions. It is very versatile and anything goes. Use the flavors and ingredients you love.
I make this crust free for those not needing the extra calories, gluten or carbs. I also roast my own tomatoes, vegetables, shred my own cheese from blocks of cheese, etc. HOWEVER, you do not have to. There are plenty of short cuts in the super market you can tap into to make this quick or lower fat. The one thing you really can’t change is the final baking time.
SO get out that glass cake pan, pie tin (may need two) and/or individual tart/cupcake/cheese cake pans. Making these as mini cupcakes, takes a little longer to assemble, but makes a great presentation and appetizer option. These can be served hot or at room temp. I even ate the left overs cold and it was a great on the go breakfast.
As I typically do, I will offer time saving and other options. The one great thing about cooking is you can make any recipe your own to fit into your diet or your families tastes. EX: Don’t like mushrooms, don’t use them.
I used 2 8×8 square pans for this recipe. Cut it in half if you only need one. The effort is the same, so making more and freezing for future consumption, is a bonus.
2 small zucchini, cut into thin rounds
2 small summer squash/yellow squash, cut into thin rounds
1cup Fresh Mozzarella, diced (or 1.5 cups shredded full fat, low fat, skim, etc..)
1 cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled (or herbed feta or sharp provolone- you can use plain, low fat or non-fat. I like the herbed because it already introduces more flavor)
1.5 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or Italian mix shredded cheese, low skim or low fat)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (not fresh for this one)
6 roma tomatoes, sliced into 3rds (You can substitute with 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes)
1 pkg baby spinach
1 med onion, sliced into 1/2 moons
2- 3 TBS Fresh herbs (any of the following: oregano, basil, thyme, majorom, parsley), sliced into ribbons, or just removed from the branch depending on size)
*** If you don’t have the fresh herbs, use about 1 TBS dried herbs, crushed
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 TBS olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 TBS dried Oregano
3 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream (or double the half and half)
salt and pepper
If using more than one pan, after preparing, be sure to split the ingredients in 1/2 to have a consistent and balanced outcome.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Spray some pam or olive oil on the bottom of your baking dish (or dishes).
- Place the zucchini and summer squash on a platter or in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, and set aside for about 15 minutes. This will help them to release some of their liquid so you don’t end up with a soggy dish.
- Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano (you can use dried basil, thyme instead)
- Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 20 – – 30 minutes so they are 1/2 dried. still some juice, but enough evaporated to concentrate the flavors and reduce the amount of liquid in the dish. (If you substitute sun dried tomatoes, you can skip this step)
- Making the sautéed spinach (if you wish) – in a pan, sauté 1 TBS olive oil, garlic and onions over med heat for about 7 minutes (until the onions wilt). It is important to watch this as you do onto want the garlic to burn. You can add the garlic after 3 minutes of sautéing the onions if you wish.
- Add in the spinach with the garlic and onions, do a couple grinds (about 1/2 tsp) of black pepper, and stir every few minutes until the spinach is wilted. You may have to add the spinach in batches (handful at a time). You can also use a different green that you may prefer. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Place the 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the shredded parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese in a bowl and toss to mix. This is your topping. Set aside.
- Rinse the zucchini and summer squash to wash off the extra salt, and pat dry with paper towels or spin in a salad spinner.
- Alternate placing the zucchini and summer squash to line the bottom of the pan(s) (you can skip this step if you use pie crust).
- Top the bottom layer with herb goat cheese, 1 cup shredded parm (or shredded italian mix), chopped fresh herbs.
- Add the roasted tomatoes (or sun dried tomatoes).
Assembling the Pie, part 1
- Top the tomatoes with the 1 cup diced fresh mozzarella.
Assembling, Part 2
- Spoon the sautéed spinach over the top of the mozzarella.
Assembling, part 3
- Then use the remaining zucchini and summer squash to put another layer on top of the whole shebang.
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream/half and half, season with pepper until the eggs are mixed with the cream.
- Pour the egg mixture over the layered “pie”.
- FINALLY, top it all with the cheese mix you set aside in step 7.
Assembling, part 4
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center is cooked through. You can use a knife to test the center like you would a cake. If it comes out clean, it is cooked through. If not, turn down the heat of the oven to 300 and let bake, checking after every 5 – 7 minutes to be sure nothing burns or over cooks.
VEGETABLE AND CHEESE PIE
Let cook before cutting and then serve as you wish.
If making individual “cups”, then build it the same way, but use less ingredients to accommodate the size of pan, dishes you are using. To save time, just make a big batch, and cut up into single serving squares or use a cookie cutter to cut out a specific shape to make it more “Gourmet”.. Keep the scrapes for a good snack.
This can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerate. Take it out of the fridge and bring to room temp about 30 – 60 minutes. Then put in a 280 – 300 degree oven to warm. It could take about an hour for the center to warm. But what this does is allows you to set out and sit for a while, for self service, pot-luck or passed apps. If you want it HOT, preheat the oven to 350 and heat for about 30 – 40 minutes until the center is hot. Then serve immediately.
- Any of the cheeses can be substituted out: Use Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Provolone, Asagio, etc… Whatever you like. But keep the parm as it is really useful to make a nice brown crust topping, adds a nice flavor, a little salt, etc..
- You can use breadcrumbs as a topping. This recipe was avoiding carbs as some of my guests were on low carb diets. I can live with out the pie crust and bread crumb topping, but not without my CHEESE! :
- Use all Egg Whites (4 eggs instead of 3) to reduce cholesterol
- Chopped sun dried tomatoes with some of it’s oil can be used in place of oven roasted tomatoes to save you time. The oil will mix with the cheese and egg mixture to give good flavor.
- Skip the spinach if you wish.
- Add sliced mushrooms when sautéing the onions, garlic and spinach
- Blanch some broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, or peas, etc.. and toss it in if you wish.
- Use eggplant instead or in addition to the summer squash and zucchini
- Use whipped potatoes for the bottom layer
- Use a pie crust – homemade or frozen – pre-bake according to your recipe or the directions so it does not become soggy
- Add cooked Ham, bacon, sausage, etc
These types of dishes are great ways to get vegetables into a meal… and it can actually become a meal in itself.